Thoughts on JUST ONE LOOK

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing on this lovely day? Can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday in July? That means it’s book review time. I wasn’t really sure what I felt like reading this month, so I just browsed through late July releases until I found something that seemed interesting. That happened to be a mystery/thriller called Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron. It was released on the 27th from Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House). As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

It’s pretty colors.

Just One Look follows Cassie Woodson who is trying to find her way back to normal after an epic break up with a coworker gets her fired and forces her from her upward trajectory in a prestigious law firm down into the basements of another firm with all the other temps just trying to scrape by. That’s where she finds the perfect man. Not in person, but via his emails which have mistakenly been included in a high profile case’s discovery files. Her job is to sift through that information for anything relevant to the case, not to snoop through personal emails. But he’s perfect and she’s in love. What could go wrong?

Characters: meh. The only one we really get any insight into is Cassie and she’s super unreliable. Don’t get me wrong. Unreliable narrators can be great as long as we can look back and see where they twist things and where the truth shines through. There is no truth with Cassie. She gets black out drunk just about every night and doesn’t remember doing creepy stalker things. And by the end, she hasn’t changed or evolved at all. The perfect guy ends up being a douchenozzle (who didn’t see that coming a mile away?), though I admit things escalate quickly and beyond what we’re set up for in the story. And the only dude with any potential at being a normal person ends up being the mystery death in this thriller. In other words, there wasn’t enough character development to make me feel one way or the other about any of them.

Me to everyone in this book.

Plot: about what you’d expect. I haven’t read many stalker stories, but they all seem pretty much the same. Girl falls for perfect dude despite never officially meeting him, finds ways to insert herself in his life, confirms/encourages the exit of any significant others, ignores all warning signs, finds out perfect dude is a douche. And if the story is a thriller, there’s usually some kind of murder or abuse involved. That’s what we have here. It gets boring fast, which is why I don’t read many books like it. But that’s just me.

Pacing: not great. The first two-thirds of this book are a slog. Sure, we get a ton of information, but no real progress. And the information we get doesn’t give any hint to the escalation in the last third of the book. If you don’t automatically assume people are asshats, there’s not really anything on the page to suggest things will go the way they do. It’s annoying. It also makes the last third of the story feel super rushed.

Yup.

Writing: nothing special. It was fine, but nothing that stood out. The problems with the pacing made it harder to read than anything. If it wasn’t for that, the writing itself could’ve made for a smooth, quick read.

Ultimately, Just One Look was okay, but not something I’ll ever think about again. I’m not mad I wasted time on it, I just wasn’t impressed by it. That’s all.

starstarstarstar outlinestar outline

Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. It was fine. People who are into the whole stalker thriller genre will probably enjoy it and should check it out. If that’s not your thing, you aren’t really missing anything.

Thoughts on THE GILDED ONES

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I requested this book from NetGalley back in June, but its release was pushed back until yesterday, so you’re getting an extra review this month. Anyway, I was looking for something fantasy at that time and ran across The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. It’s YA (young adult). And it was released yesterday (February 9th) by Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House). As usual, I must thank the publishers and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

51mCcFqejJL
Love the cover.

The Gilded Ones follows Deka as she struggles to find acceptance in a world that thinks she’s a monster. She’s always been an outcast, but she hopes that once she completes the Ritual of Purity and proves her blood runs red, everyone will acknowledge that she belongs. The only problem is that her blood is gold, signifying that she’s impure. After a hellish time in the church’s cellar, a mysterious woman comes to whisk Deka away with promises of a place in the world and answers to her questions, but Deka only finds new questions along the way. What are the Deathshrieks? What are the alaki? But most importantly, what is she?

The plot is an interesting mix of predictability and surprise. There are weird animals and goddesses and a bloody war and everything you could want in a fantasy novel, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded or convoluted at all. The friendship and family subplots are actually what makes this book worth reading. They’re extremely well done. There’s also a romantic subplot that randomly appears. You know it’s coming from the very first time we see him, but all of the actual budding romance happens off the page, so when we learn they’re closer than wary friends, it feels abrupt. That’s actually my biggest complaint with this book. That first time they hug instead of clasping arms is a huge step forward and we don’t even get to see it or hear about it. I honestly felt cheated when I realized they’d already moved past that point. But at least we get to see the first kiss.

P85t3fs
So cute.

I adore the characters. Deka and Britta make such a strong pair. I almost feel bad for Keita if he ever does anything stupid and hurts Deka, because Britta will tear him apart. I loved all of the girls, but I hope to learn more about Adwapa and her sister in future books. I get why they remain mysterious throughout this book, but now we know their secret, so their backstory could be super interesting. But if you know me at all, you’ll probably guess that Braima and Masaima (the snarky equus twins) and Ixa (Deka’s pet) are my favorites.

The pacing and the ending. The story moves along at a pretty quick pace that kept my attention. I don’t think there was ever a point where I didn’t want to pick it up the next day, which is honestly rare for me. I get bored easily which is why I only read a couple of chapters at a time. As I mentioned, the pacing of the romantic subplot is awkward, but the rest of the story moves along nicely. I will say that the ending is a little rushed, but it leaves some stuff open for the next book. I’m personally wary of the newcomers (don’t want to spoil it by saying who), but that’s probably just because I read a bunch of stuff where anything that seems too good to be true is a big old scam.

giphy (32)

The writing is lovely. There’s some gorgeous imagery and very poetic phrasing. It’s tight and keeps a quick flow. There are places where I wanted some more description to get a better grasp of the setting, but it isn’t a deterrent from reading on.

Ultimately, I loved The Gilded Ones. I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes, so I’ll definitely check out the next book. I’ll also keep an eye out for other things by Namina Forna.

starstarstarstarstar outline

Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. If you like fantasy or have a teen who does, this book is definitely worth checking out.